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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 98-11-26

Midday Express: News from the EU Commission Spokesman's Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: EUROPA, the European Commission Server at <http://europa.eu.int>

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Spokesman's midday briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi du Porte-Paroleb

26/11/98


CONTENTS / CONTENU

  • [01] Commission closes mobile telecommunications cases after price cuts
  • [02] Commission rejects criticisms of the decision on the UK Date Based Export Scheme
  • [03] La zone euro affiche un excédent de 6,6 milliards d'Ecus avec le reste du monde en août
  • [04] Ecarts considérable du chômage dans les zones urbaines de l'UE
  • [05] Anti-racism documentary contest reveals young European TV talent
  • [06] 100 jeunes construisent "leur" Europe
  • [07] EU nuclear safety strategy for the East underlined
  • [08] Yves-Thibault de Silguy : Fixing the conversion rates against the euro on 31 December
  • [09] Yves-Thibault de Silguy : "The UK will be profoundly affected by the euro"
  • [10] Franz Fischler : "Hungary on the way to membership of the EU"

  • [01] Commission closes mobile telecommunications cases after price cuts

    The European Commission has decided to close the file on some of the in- depth investigations into fixed and mobile operators' interconnection rates which it opened in July 1998. The decision follows the announcement since of reduced margins or interconnection charges for mobile calls and affects Italy and Spain as regards the termination of mobile-to-fixed calls. Also, Ireland has lowered the fixed network operator's retention on fixed-to- mobile calls. In three other cases relating to Germany and the Netherlands, the Commission has stayed its proceedings in view of action taken by the national regulatory authorities.

    [02] Commission rejects criticisms of the decision on the UK Date Based Export Scheme

    Reacting to certain criticisms regarding the decision on the Date Based Export Scheme the European Commission stressed the sound scientific basis for this decision and totally rejected suggestions that the decision was motivated by political or economic considerations. This scheme has been scrutinised very carefully by the Scientific Steering Committee who have delivered two opinons on the subject, firstly in December 1997 and finally in February 1998. The modifications to the scheme suggested by the Scientists in December 1997 were fully introduced and the final proposal meets all of the requirements and recommandations of their opinion of February 1998 which were put forward as the approach which would give maximum guarantees in relation to the protection of human and animal health. The Commission considers it necessary to repeat the main elements of the scheme which guarantees that no BSE infected meat can be exported ie : this scheme will apply only to deboned meat and meat products obtained from animals born after the 1 August 1996 (the date on which it is considered that the meat-and-bone meal ban in the UK was fully effective) and which are over six months and under thirty months of age. The scheme also includes the slaughter and destruction of offspring from Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) infected animals and verification that the dam of the animal concerned has lived for at least six months after birth and not developed BSE. Strict rules on the identification and traceability of animals and meat are also included. It should be stressed that meat from animals over thirty months of age will continue to be excluded from all markets including the domestic UK market. Furthermore it is important to point out that no UK beef can be exported until such time as the Commission has been satisfied on the basis of an inspection that all aspects of the scheme are being completely applied. Note : the two opinions of the Scientific Steefing Committee are available on the internet site : http://europa.eu.int/comm/dg24/sc/ssc/outcome_en.html

    [03] La zone euro affiche un excédent de 6,6 milliards d'Ecus avec le reste du monde en août

    (! embargo 12h !) La zone euro a enregistré un excédent commercial de 6,6 milliards d'Ecus avec le reste du monde au mois d'août de cette année, en hausse de 0,3 milliard par rapport à la même période de l'année dernière. Les échanges extra-Union européenne (UE15) ont dégagé un excédent de 1,6 milliards d'Ecus en août, en baisse de 1,5 milliard par rapport à août 1997. Ces chiffres sont publiés aujourd'hui par Eurostat, l'Office statistique des Communautés européennes à Luxembourg. La croissance extra et intra-communautaire a continué à ralentir en août, tant pour la zone euro que pour l'UE15, les exportations extra-UE15 ayant même légèrement baissé par rapport au mois d'août 1997.

    [04] Ecarts considérable du chômage dans les zones urbaines de l'UE

    (! embargo 12h !) Eurostat, l'Office statistique des Communautés européennes à Luxembourg, publie aujourd'hui un rapport sur le chômage dans les zones urbaines de l'Union européenne (UE). Les résultats ressortent de l'enquête sur les forces de travail (EFT) réalisée en avril 97. Le rapport indique que le taux de chômage de l'ensemble des agglomérations urbaines de l'UE était de 11,6%. Cette moyenne va de 2,8% à Luxembourg à 30,5% dans les zones urbaines de l'Andalousie (Espagne). Parmi les 141 régions de l'EFT où se trouvent des zones urbaines englobant une ou plusieurs agglomérations urbaines et pour lesquelles les données ont un niveau de fiabilité satisfaisant, 13 se distinguent par un taux de chômage inférieur à 5,5% (soit 50% plus faible que la moyenne de l'UE). Huit se concentrent dans les pays du Bénélux et trois en Autriche. A l'opposé, plus d'une douzaine de zones urbaines se caractérisent par un taux de chômage qui avoisine ou dépasse largement le double de la moyenne de l'UE. Elles sont surtout situées en Italie et en Espagne.

    [05] Anti-racism documentary contest reveals young European TV talent

    Four talented young film makers, winners of a TV documentary competition backed by the European Commission, will see their work premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA) in Amsterdam this month. The prize winners originate from Portugal, France, Sweden and the UK. The IDFA runs from 25 November to 3 December, and the films, all exploring anti- racist and cultural diversity themes, will be featured as special screenings on 30 November. The competition, which is organised by EMMA, the European Multicultural Media Agency, is part of an initiative aimed at young people, aged 17-25, in the 18 countries of the European Economic Area, especially welcoming those with recent migrant and ethnic minority backgrounds. The initiative is jointly backed by the Commission's Directorates General responsible for "Education, Training and Youth" (DG XII), "Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs" (DG V), and "Information, Communication, Culture and Audiovisual" (DG X).

    [06] 100 jeunes construisent "leur" Europe

    Pour la deuxième année consécutive, à l'invitation d'Edith Cresson, Membre de la Commission européenne responsable pour l'éducation, la formation et la jeunesse, 100 jeunes de 17 à 32 ans bénéficiant des programmes éducatifs et scientifiques de l'Union européenne (UE) débattront de thèmes qu'ils jugent importants pour leur avenir. Cette deuxième rencontre Jeunes, qui se tiendra les 26 et 27 novembre à Bruxelles, couvrira les thèmes suivants : créativité et esprit d'initiative ; recherche, société et éthique ; et identités locales dans l'Europe de demain. La première rencontre, organisée en novembre 1997, avait permis de proposer des solutions concrètes dans les domaines suivants : stimulation de la mobilité des jeunes dans les différents pays de l'UE ; accroissement de l'information sur les programmes européens ; allègement des procédures administratives. En 1997, près de 400.000 jeunes ont bénéficié directement des programmes éducatifs et scientifiques de l'UE.

    [07] EU nuclear safety strategy for the East underlined

    European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Hans van den Broek today rejected allegations that the European Union's (EU) nuclear safety programmes for Eastern Europe lack a comprehensive strategy. "Our strategy has always been clear and conducted in full transparency", he said at the European Parliament today, "Contrary to what is frequently assumed, the EU's objective has never been to assume full and exclusive responsibility to solve all the problems, but was clearly limited to help the concerned States to shoulder their responsibilities in this area. Grants of the order of ECU 100 million per year are by far insufficient for the modernisation or closure of the 65 nuclear reactors in Central and Eastern Europe and in the New Independent States. The cost of this undertaking is estimated to be at some tens of billions of ECU". In addition to these financial constraints, the Commissioner also outlined the complex technical, political and legal constraints of nuclear safety projects and the many concrete results that have already been achieved.

    [08] Yves-Thibault de Silguy : Fixing the conversion rates against the euro on 31 December

    Speaking at a conference on EMU in London, Yves-Thibault de Silguy, European Commissioner responsible for economic, monetary and financial affairs, explained the timetable for the fixing of conversion rates against the euro on 31 December : "All that now remains is to fix the conversion rates between national currencies and the euro. For technical reasons, this cannot be done before the 31st of December 1998. However, the procedure has already been decided. The starting point will be a teleconference between national central banks to establish the market value of the ECU. The Commission, after consultation with the European Central Bank, will then be in a position to calculate conversion rates against the euro. We will publish our proposals in the early afternoon of 31 December, probably at around 1pm. The rates will be legally adopted by the Council of Ministers later in the afternoon. Finally, the text will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union at about 6pm. It will enter into force at midnight local time in all participating countries. This timetable should allow financial market operators the maximum possible time to prepare for the first trading day in EMU on 4 January 1999." He also commented on the debate on the external value of the euro : "Intensified international cooperation could help to limit violent exchange rate movements which can undermine confidence and damage trade flows. In today's world of free capital movements, exchange rates are not set by decree. The markets decide the relative values of our currencies on the basis of the economic conditions in the countries involved. The key to greater exchange rate stability is therefore working together to reduce the economic divergences which can provoke markets to react. Without an effective international dialogue, it is unrealistic to envisage any system of indicative zones for exchange rates."

    [09] Yves-Thibault de Silguy : "The UK will be profoundly affected by the euro"

    (! embargo 3 pm !) Speaking to the French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain, Yves-Thibault de Silguy, European Commissioner responsible for economic, monetary and financial affairs, said : "The debate in the UK has always underestimated the political momentum behind EMU. Once a rocket is launched, there is no going back. The theoretical debate in the UK over whether EMU would happen was counter-productive. Those in the UK who tried to prevent other member states from pressing ahead have simply damaged Britain's image in the European Union. And, at a more practical level, this sterile debate has undoubtedly held back some business preparations in the UK. Now that the arrival of the euro is a certainty, the attack has shifted to how long EMU will last. The sceptics argue that economic pressures will destroy the euro four or five years down the line. They use this scenario to justify the UK remaining outside for as long as possible. My answer is do not make the same mistake twice. EMU is not a leap in the dark. It is the next step in a long and successful process of European integration." "The UK has decided to stay outside monetary union, at least for the present. The UK has this absolute right. And the decision under the opt-out is for the UK and the UK alone." " Not being in monetary union means being outside. And that brings a number of economic and political consequences for the UK. Firstly, the UK will be directly affected by the interest rates set by the European Central Bank. Secondly, companies in Britain will face exchange rate risks when they do business in the euro zone. Thirdly, individuals will also be able to make uncomfortable comparisons with other Member States. In 1995, interest on a mortgage of £100,000 in Italy cost £1,100 per month. The same loan would have cost £670 a month in the UK. Today, you are still paying £650 in the UK. But the Italian interest payments have dropped by half to £540."

    [10] Franz Fischler : "Hungary on the way to membership of the EU"

    On his two-day visit to Budapest, European Commission for Agriculture Franz Fischler praised Hungary's progress in preparing for membership. He appreciated Hungary's achievements in fighting corruption and improving its legal system. As to economy Hungary could now be regarded as a functioning market economy that may be capable of coping with the competitive pressures on the internal market in the medium term, provided that it continues its current efforts. The Commission's progress report confirms Hungary's compliance with the priorities in the sphere of economic reforms, veterinary and plant health law and financial controls. He underlined that the food industry was the only major sector in which Hungary is already a net exporter. However, further efforts were still necessary, not least in the agriculture sector, before Hungary could hold its own in the European single market. "In the last resort, each applicant country must decide for itself at what pace it can undertake reform", Mr Fischler told the Hungarian Parliament.

    MIDDAY EXPRESS


    From EUROPA, the European Commission Server at http://europa.eu.int/
    © ECSC - EC - EAEC, Brussels-Luxembourg, 1995, 1996


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